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Treasure Hunting on the Kansas Prairie
8 years ago
Yes, Kansas is full of hidden treasures -- from scenic views that would surprise many travelers; history that is rich with stories of the many who passed through on their way to the vast West; and literal buried treasures hidden by Spanish expeditions, Indians and outlaws.  Check out these stories if you're in the mood for a little treasure hunting!

The Cherokee Badman's Hidden Loot

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Henry Starr taken in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1919

Please stay tuned for the next installment.....

8 years ago
A nephew of the bandit queen Belle Starr, Henry Starr was known as the Cherokee Bad Boy.  Beginning his outlaw career in Oklahoma in 1892, his gang of bandits included such names as Kid Wilson, Frank Cheney and a laughing gunman known only as Happy Jack.  The notorious gang robbed stores, train depots and banks in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.  In December 1892, Starr shot and killed U.S. Deputy Marshall Floyd Wilson, when the lawman tried to arrest him.   By the summer of 1893, little more than a year after starting his notorious career, five of the seven-gang members were dead leaving only Henry Starr and Kid Wilson surviving.
8 years ago
On July 3, 1893, Starr and Kid Wilson were captured while vacationing at Colorado Springs with Starr’s new bride. Of the more than $20,000 already taken by the Starr gang, authorities recovered just $1,460 in greenbacks and $500 in gold.  Starr was sentenced to hang for murder and robbery, but by 1904, he was back in Indian Territory, his sentence having been commuted by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Though Starr settled down for a time, when Oklahoma became a state in 1907, surrounding states tried to extradite him.  Under the fear of being extradited to Arkansas, he hid in the Osage Hills quickly falling in with his old partners.  After another wave of bank robberies Starr was arrested and sentenced to 7-25 years in prison. He was paroled in 1913 providing he never set foot in Oklahoma again.

8 years ago

But, hiding out right under their noses in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the state suffered its worst string of bank robberies in 1914.  Dozens of banks fell, with the robberies sometimes occurring with as little as two weeks between.  In March 1915, Starr and his gang robbed two banks in Stroud, Oklahoma, but this time Starr was not so lucky – he was shot and arrested.  Sentenced to up to 25 years, Starr was paroled just four years later. 

When he got out of prison, he changed career directions, producing a movie about the Stroud robbery that was highly successful with two imitation flicks that quickly followed. Other movie companies began to call and ask him to stage bank robberies for him, which he happily complied.  However, he seemingly could not give up his first career choice.  While filming at Stroud he robbed the bank at Chandler and then another in Davenport, Oklahoma.  He was still negotiating with a California movie company when he was shot and killed while robbing a bank at Harrison, Arkansas on February 23, 1921.

8 years ago

During Starr’s 32 years of crime, he claimed to have robbed more banks than both the James-Younger Gang and the Doolin-Dalton Gang put together – a total of 21 banks, making off with nearly $60,000.

The loot from Starr’s earlier crimes was, by his own words, hidden  "..near the border in a place nobody could find it in a million years.”  Many researchers believe that this cache is hidden somewhere along the Cimarron River in Stevens County, Kansas.

Stevens County  is located in extreme southwest Kansas.  There are two communities in Stevens County including Moscow and Hugoton, the county seat, which is located at the intersections of US Highway 56, and Kansas Highways 51 and 25.  Unfortunately, finding this treasure could be tough in the approximately 729 square miles that the county encompasses.  However, the Cimarron River is located only in the extreme northwest portion of the county, which might be worth exploring.

8 years ago


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Pawnee Rock

Pawnee Rock, May, 2004, Kathy Weiser

Pawnee Rock

Jutting out above the prairie near Larned, Kansas is a landmark called Pawnee Rock where dozens of gold and silver caches are said to have been buried. For centuries, Pawnee Rock was a site where the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians held councils of war and peace.


8 years ago

Many Indian battles were fought here and arrowheads can often be found bearing witness to these bloody conflicts. The sandstone citadel was also used by the Indians as a vantage point to spot buffalo herds, and later -- approaching wagon trains.

Rising up out of the plains, Pawnee Rock was a landmark for explorers and a popular campsite for travelers crossing the prairie. The large rock formation later became a popular stop upon the Santa Fe Trail for the white settlers heading west in search of adventure and fortune. The Rock was considered the mid-point of the long road between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico lying between long stretches of dry plains.  Water, provided by the nearby Arkansas River, and fresh meat, obtained by plentiful game, was vital to the survival of the wagon trains.

8 years ago

Explorers Zebulon Pike, Webb, Gregg, Doniphan and other travelers mentioned Pawnee Rock in their journals. In 1826, when Kit Carson was just 17 years old, the wagon train he was working for camped near the Rock. Drawing guard duty that night, he shot his own mule, thinking it was an attacking Indian.


As the hundreds of thousands of trappers, soldiers, gold seekers and emigrants passed by, they carved their names into every conceivable place upon the sandstone face of the bluff. In 1848, James Birch, a soldier on his way to the Mexican War, wrote: "Pawnee Rock was covered with names carved by the men who had passed it. It was so full that I could find no place for mine."

8 years ago

Although the rock was one of the most famous landmarks along the 750-mile trail, it also became known as one of the most dangerous points, as the angry Pawnee Indians began ambushing the caravans. Word of the attacks spread from one end of the trail to the other, but the wagon trains still stopped at the vital campsite needing fresh provisions for the rest of their journey.


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Wagon Train in 1870, courtesy Denver Public Library

8 years ago

It quickly became a common practice for the travelers to bury their valuables before bedding down for the night. Hidden, the money would be safe if they were attacked by Indians or robbers.  The massacres continued, and many of the travelers were slain before they were able to dig up their caches. Today, the number of unfound buried treasures is  estimated at well over a hundred, ranging from small caches of the lone traveler, to very large belonging to Spanish expeditions, or rich Santa Fe freighters returning east carrying gold or silver from the sale of their goods.

When the railroads began making their way across the plains in 1872, the town of Pawnee Rock was founded, which lies at the foot of the sandstone cliff. These settlers quarried the bluff for building materials reducing its elevation by at least one-half its original height.

8 years ago

In 1908, the remaining portion was acquired by the Woman’s Kansas Day Club and the next year it was turned over to the State of Kansas as an historic site.  On May 24, 1912, a stone monument was dedicated with great celebration before a crowd of some eight thousand onlookers.


The state park today provides a road leads to a shelter house and monument on the summit. An overlook, monument and historical signs now grace its reduced summit, where visitors can stand, witnessing the view that so many throughout history have shared. The site is open from sunrise to sunset.

8 years ago

Pawnee Rock State Historic Site is located one-half mile north of Pawnee Rock, Kansas in the southwest corner of Barton County.

Starting out from any direction, a treasure hunter might look within two miles of the Rock for the hidden treasures. The area is also rich in relics from Indians, early Spanish explorers, and Santa Fe Trail pioneers.

That being said, please note that treasure hunting, metal detecting, digging or removal of objects is not permitted at Kansas State Historic Sites.

8 years ago

Hamilton County Stage Station


Stagecoach-1925-DenverPublicLibrary.jpg (383x205 -- 12290 bytes)The stage station, located between Medway and Syracuse on the Arkansas River was once operated by a man by the name of Felix Goldman.  Goldman, a sharp character, began to get the feeling that he was being cased for a robbery when he was visited three days in a row by a tough looking stranger.  Goldman advised the authorities of his suspicions about the shady stranger asking too many questions and scrutinizing things a bit too much.  Cautious, Goldman buried his own savings, as well as the operating funds of the stage station, which amounted to about $17,000 in gold and silver coins.

Just a few days later, Goldman was found dead at the stage station and local lawmen went after the suspect, a man named Tolliver.  The robber was quickly apprehended but, upon capture, swore that he did not get any money. 

8 years ago

The cache has never been found.  Hamilton County is located in Southwest Kansas very near the Colorado border.  Syracuse, the county seat can be found at the intersections of U.S. Highway 50 and Kansas Highway 27.

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Syracuse, Kansas in Hamilton County, 1910, courtesy

Wichita State University

8 years ago

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Garden City, Kansas in 1909, Wichita State University

Fleagle Gang Buried Cache

In the late 1800s, the Fleagle family traveled from Iowa, settling in the flatlands of western Kansas. Raising four boys, the two oldest boys were hard working and conscientious, but the other two, Ralph and Jake Fleagle would grow up to be early 1900s outlaws.

8 years ago

Heading out to San Francisco, California, Jake became a card shark. Later, they traveled to Oklahoma, where Jake was arrested and sentenced to one year at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary for burglary.


When he got out, Ralph was waiting and they returned to western Kansas, to what was, by then, called Garden City.

Neighbors began to notice that Ralph and Jake were constantly coming and going to the farm and the family was beginning to prosper with a new house, tractor and increasing numbers of cattle stock. The brothers convinced their family that they had done well in the stock market, but what no one knew, was they were really leading a gang of gunmen who were terrorizing the western states. Jake, the leader of the gang, led them up and down the Sacramento Valley for years, usually raiding big money crap games and high stake gambling houses. Periodically, they would return to Garden City when the heat was on in California. Jake was a philanderer and a drinker, but still managed to accumulate a sizable bank account. Ralph, on the other hand, was a tightwad and secretly buried his money in places all over California, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas. Historians estimate that the Fleagles and their gangs were responsible for 60% of the heists in and around Kansas and California during the 1920s.

8 years ago

The brothers rented a new place not far from their parents where they could plan their capers more privately. Here, in 1928, along with three new members of their "gang,” they planned to rob the First National Bank of Lamar, Colorado. Corazon Gargullio, an escapee from San Quentin, cased the bank for the crew. The other two handpicked members were George Abshier from Colorado and Howard Royston from California. Though planned very carefully, the heist was put off several times due to Jake’s superstitions. Gargullio got tired of the waiting and left the gang, only to be shot down within days by the FBI.  

When the day finally arrived, the four men entered the bank, filling their sacks with $220,000. In their 15 years of stealing, the Fleagle brothers had never shot their weapons, but on that day in Lamar, Colorado, the bank president, A.N. Parrish fired at Royston with a 45, hitting him in the jawbone. Jake fired back at Parrish, killing him. The bank president’s son, J.N. Parrish ran to help his father, and was also shot down by Jake. In the ensuing panic, the alarm was triggered and the gang fled with bank employees Everett Kessinger and Ed Lungren as hostages, with the sheriff close behind them. When one of the gang’s shots hit the radiator in the sheriff’s car, the gang sped away leaving the lawmen behind. Once outside of town, they dropped off Ed Lungren, the bank teller, but Kessinger was kept on the running board to be used as a shield in case they encountered more law enforcement.

8 years ago

With Royston lying on the rear floor moaning from the slug he had taken in his jaw, the gang sped down the back roads of Colorado until they reached western Kansas. Once back on their ranch, they tied up Kessinger, and the Fleagle brothers buried the money. Around midnight, they finally roused a Dr. W.W. Wineinger with a gun to his head, bringing him back to the ranch to tend to Royston.



However, when Dr. Wineinger did not return home, the townsfolk began a wide search. The doctor was finally found under his old Hudson automobile at the crisscross of a cowpath. He was bound, gagged, blindfolded and shot in the back. A few days later, cashier Kessinger's bullet riddled body was found in a weedy patch north of Liberal, Kansas. Like the Doc, he had been bound, gagged, and shot in the back. Citizens were outraged. The town newspaper cried for revenge. The law sent out dozens of man hunters but the gang had already fled to St. Paul, Minnesota. 

8 years ago

However, Jake Fleagle had made a fatal mistake, leaving a single fingerprint on Doc Wineinger's old car. In those days, a single print was a long shot, but the law got lucky when a transient named William Holden was arrested on suspicion of a train stickup. Holden was later freed after providing a solid alibi, but the sheriff sent his fingerprints to Washington on a hunch.  The prints were identified not as belonging to a William Holden, but rather to Jake Fleagle who had served time in the Oklahoma Penitentiary, and matched the print on Dr. Wineinger’s car.

Sheriff s deputies hurried to the Fleagle ranch where Ralph’s address was provided as Kankakee, Illinois. Chief Harper rushed to Kankakee, taking Ralph by surprise and brought him back to Garden City in shackles. Ralph started talking.

8 years ago

Royston, still bearing the Lamar bullet scar, was living a quiet exemplary life as a father and husband when he was arrested in San Andreas, California. He tattled on George Abshier, and Abshier was picked up.

With no lead on Jake Fleagle, over a million posters prominently displaying his prison photo were distributed to almost every city and town in the nation. Twenty-five thousand dollars was offered for his capture. Finally, he was shot down in a running gunfight with police in Branson, Missouri.

8 years ago

Ralph Fleagle, Royston, and Abshier were all hanged in the Colorado State Penitentiary at Canon City.

As for the hundreds of thousands of dollars of Ralph Fleagle's buried booty, one cache was dug up in Nebraska in 1952, another in Kansas in 1961; near Murrieta, California, another Fleagle cache was found, approximate figure unknown.

8 years ago

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Battle Canyon, Scott County, Kansas courtesy Kansas Geological Survey

There are many Fleagle bandit caches scattered throughout the Inland Empire of Southern California, as well as in the Sacramento, California, and Garden City, Kansas, areas.


One buried cache of $100,000 taken from a bank in Nebraska is said to be buried in one or two places: in the area of Battle Canyon, in the badlands of the Logan-Scott County area; and/or on Ralph’s Fleagles ranch where he lived before he was captured near Branson, Missouri.

8 years ago

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Point of Rocks in Morton County, courtesy

Kansas Geological Survey

Other Kansas Treasures Just Waiting to Be Found


Dodge City:  Reportedly, a stolen Wells Fargo treasure was hidden west of Dodge City, Ford County.

Elkhart:  Bandit loot hidden at Point of Rocks northwest of Elkhart, Morton County, remains concealed.

8 years ago

Ellis:  In 1870, a railroad payroll of $22,000 was robbed from the Wells Fargo office at Ellis.  According to local legend, the money was stashed around the limestone banks of Big Creek just outside of town and never recovered.

Lakin:  $24,000 in silver coins was buried in 1828 on Chouteau's Island, in the Arkansas River, 5 miles southwest of Lakin. Chouteau Island was along the Santa Fe Trail but has since disappeared due to the erosion of the Arkansas River.

8 years ago

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Lakin, Kansas in 1907 courtesy Wichita State University

Neosho Trail:  A large cache of gold coins, in a pair of buffalo hide saddlebags, were hidden by a buffalo hunter on the Neosho Trail between Baxter Springs and Coffeyville at a point where the trail crosses the river.

8 years ago

Offerle:  In 1851 a party of returning California gold miners and their families was attacked by Indians just across the Arkansas River from what later became Taylor Ranch two miles southwest of Offerle. $90,000 worth of gold dust was buried in a Dutch oven at the site, and the only survivor was a eight year old girl who was taken captive by the Indians. She survived to pass on the story to her descendants. In 1918 a woman who claimed to be related to a survivor of the massacre (none outside of the eight year old girl was known to exist) turned up in Kinsley with a map indicating that the treasure was hidden somewhere southwest of town, but she was unable to find it.

Reader's Update:  I’m writing you on behalf of a article you wrote. I am writing to let you know that this is only a myth. My family owned that land that you talk about and we used it for grazing cattle and sold it to a farmer of which I don’t know of the name, but if needed I’m sure I can come up with it.  Within the time the farmer had it I’m sure that his discs would of  have hit the treasure. - Dylan, October, 2004.

Unless it was buried much deeper.....

8 years ago


Lawrence:  Around 1862 an army paymaster was robbed of $195,000 in gold and silver coins while enroute from Lawrence to Denver.  The coins are supposedly buried between two sycamore trees between Lawrence and the Wakarusa River, just to the south of Lawrence in Douglas County.

Topeka:  $500,000-$1 million in gold coins are buried on the old farm of Abram Burnett on the north side of Shungannunga Creek which cuts through Topeka.  His farm took in the SE 1/4 of Section 9, Twp. 11, R15 E in Mission township.

8 years ago

Wallace:  Peter Robidoux was the first merchant to settle in Wallace in the 1800s and prospered.  He is known to have hidden a number of caches of gold and silver coins, in and around the town site, which went unrecovered after his death.

Morland:  A party of either Spaniards or California gold miners threw a chest of treasure into the Soloman River near Morland when they were attacked by Indians.  The river changed course and the chest was never recovered.  Some sources claim that the treasure, now under dry ground, was a hoard of gold bars worth $400,000.

8 years ago


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Paola, Kansas 1863 courtesy Wichita State University.


Paola:  On July 10, 1918, the Missouri-Kansas & Texas passenger train was robbed by two men near Paola in Miami County. A small safe containing gold and silver coins was taken off the train into a field, where the bandits tried to open the safe without success.  Eager to get away, the outlaws buried the safe at the edge of the woods about 100 yards from the railroad tracks.  When one of the two was captured and taken into custody, he confessed to the robbery, telling the lawmen about the burial site.  However, the money has reportedly never been found.

8 years ago

Randall:  In 1910, Davey Morris, a miserly farmer died on his farm about three miles south of Randall in Jewell County.  Mr. Morris was a loner and a hard-working farmer who lived very frugally in his small cabin upon the farm. For more than thirty years, he sold his produce for cash, stashing it away in hideaways upon his property.  After his death, it was found that Mr. Morris was not a poor man, when various amounts were found hidden all over his cabin.  Reportedly, Mr. Morris also stashed sums outside of the cabin on other areas of his property, but these have never been found.

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